Republicans shelve Zuckerberg contempt vote in ‘censorship’ inquiry ‘for now’

Republicans shelve Zuckerberg contempt vote in ‘censorship’ inquiry ‘for now’

House panel was to consider resolution on Meta chief for allegedly failing to turn over internal documents to investigators

Mary Yang in WashingtonThu 27 Jul 2023 14.17 EDT

Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Meta, is no stranger to Capitol Hill, where he has sparred with Republicans and Democrats over how he runs his platforms. A Republican-led panel was set to vote on Thursday on a resolution to hold him in contempt of Congress, for allegedly failing to turn over internal documents on content moderation.

However, House judiciary committee chair Jim Jordan, a Republican of Ohio, temporarily suspended the vote.

Jordan announced on Twitter that the committee “decided to hold contempt in abeyance. For now” and posted a series of tweets of alleged internal communications among Meta executives hours ahead of the hearing.

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“To be clear, contempt is still on the table and WILL be used if Facebook fails to cooperate in FULL,” Jordan said.

New Social Media App ''Threads'' launched by Meta - 26 Jul 2023<br>Mandatory Credit: Photo by Muhammad Ata/IMAGESLIVE via ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock (14023076p) Gaziantep, Turkiye. 08 July 2023. The logo of the new App ''Threads'' by Meta Platforms. The App is a new text-based app which functions in a similar way as Twitter, with Threads allowed to be up to 500 characters long. The app ''Threads'' has been developed by the Instagram team New Social Media App ''Threads'' launched by Meta - 26 Jul 2023

Republican lawmakers have repeatedly accused Meta – along with other big names Google, Apple and Microsoft – of suppressing conservative speech on their platforms.

Jim Jordan had alleged that Meta failed to turn over requested internal company documents to an investigation into tech companies and “willfully refused to comply in full with a congressional subpoena”, according to a report released on Tuesday.

Jordan, an Ohio Republican, also subpoenaed the chief executives at Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple in February. Zuckerberg is so far the only one facing additional scrutiny.

But regulating tech companies is a rare area of bipartisan support, even if the reasons behind it are different. Meta has come under fire from Democrats over privacy concerns and its marketing toward kids and teens. In 2020, Zuckerberg, along with the then Twitter chief executive, Jack Dorsey, faced intense questioning during a Senate judiciary hearing where Democrats condemned the executives for amplifying misinformation, such as false claims of election fraud, and raised antitrust concerns.

Meta says it has fully complied with the congressional investigation.

“For many months, Meta has operated in good faith with this committee’s sweeping requests for information. We began sharing documents before the committee’s February subpoena and have continued to do so,” said a Meta spokesperson, Andy Stone, in a statement posted in response to the hearing notice on Tuesday.

He said Meta had so far delivered more than 53,000 pages of internal and external documents and “made nearly a dozen current and former employees available to discuss external and internal matters, including some scheduled this very week”, according to the statement.

Politico reported that Meta handed over more documents hours before Jordan announced the Thursday vote but that the Ohio Republican was not satisfied.

“They’ve given us documents because we’re pushing and because we’re talking about this – we appreciate that, but we are convinced that it’s way short of what they should be providing us,” Jordan reportedly said in an interview.

One social media company, Twitter – which now goes by X – has escaped much of the scrutiny as its chief executive, Elon Musk, has been seen as friendly to conservatives. In his February letter to tech companies, Jordan called Twitter a model of transparency and praised its “Twitter files” – which many experts flagged as sensationalized.

Meta’s second-quarter revenue defied expectations after its earnings release on Wednesday, and Zuckerberg’s own net worth surged on Thursday.

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